The decline of the valuable Chambo (Oreochromis species) in the southern part of Lake Malawi, where an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries is being applied, is a major economic and ecological concern. Annual Chambo fish harvests have continued to show a downward trend especially for the past two decades thereby adversely affecting the livelihoods of many fishers, processors and traders along the value chain. As part of the institutional agenda within the ecosystem approach to fisheries, a key question remains on the status of the fisheries co-management, which was introduced in the area in the mid 1990s. This article applies a fishery performance indicator framework to assess the fisheries co-management in the study area as baseline information for the development of the ecosystem approach to fisheries. The assessment is based on an expert analysis by the author and a review of previous study reports on the fisheries co-management as a governance reform. Results show weak fisheries governance with the existence of several challenges and threats that continue to impact on the ecosystem status like continued use of illegal fishing practices, climate change and unlimited entry. To improve fisheries co-management, the fishing by-laws that were formulated in 2007 need to be approved by Mangochi district authorities within the on-going decentralization process.

Introduction

Fisheries management measures for Lake Malawi have mainly targeted Chambo (Oreochromis species) since 1930 when the first fishing regulations were added to the Game Ordinance by including Section 3: Fishing Rules MP 437 of 1930 (Chirwa, 1996). After Chambo biological research (Lowe, 1952, 1953), the fishing regulations were revised with the introduction of the Fisheries Ordinance of 1949 (Donda and Njaya, 2007; Hara et al., 2015). This was to regulate the fishery especially Chambo harvests. A subsequent review of the fishing regulations was done in 1973 (Hara 2001) to include regulatory measures for other fish species like Mpasa (Opsaridium species). Another review was made in the 1990s with the recognition of the fishing community participation as a governance reform in a co-management arrangement as reflected in Community Participation (Part III of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1997) and the Fishing Conservation and Management Rules of 2000 (GoM, 1997, 2000). Furthermore, the Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan (2004–2015) was formulated to address the Chambo declining trend in 2004 (Banda et al., 2005).

Despite such initiatives, the Chambo fish harvest has declined from about 5000 tonnes per year in the 1980s to less than 3000 tonnes per year (an average catch for the past five years) thereby adversely affecting livelihoods of around 200,000 people including fishers, processors and traders along the value chain. The declining trend is of major economic and ecological concern hence an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) plan was developed in 2014 to address the problem in the southern Lake Malawi recognizing the complex situation in managing the fishery. The plan has included the issues of climate change adaptation and the roles of other interrelated sectors like aquaculture (cage farming), forestry, water resources, irrigation, land resources, mining, wildlife and tourism. Also, the plan has a fisheries governance component through co-management arrangement as a reform to ensure equity in decision-making regarding management of the fisheries.

EAF is defined as “a way of managing fisheries and aquaculture that balances the different objectives of society (e.g. ecological and economic objectives), by applying an integrated approach across geographical areas that reflect natural ecosystems” (Staples and Funge-Smith, 2009, p. 6). The ecosystem approach adopts the concept of sustainable development that has gradually replaced previous policies focused on economic growth (FAO, 2009). Sustainable development is a “process for finding a balance between ecological well-being and human well-being so that development does not destroy the natural resource base on which it is dependent but avoids overprotection of resources that prevents rational development” (FAO, 2009, p. 6).

EAF can be applied to achieving sustainable development, contributing to food security and human development while maintaining environmental integrity and enhancing social well-being by reducing intra- and inter-sectoral conflicts in both a participatory and a consultative manner through engagement with the relevant stakeholders (FAO, 2009). When applying EAF to a particular fishery, the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) should be considered.

Co-management is a participatory form of fisheries management. It is an arrangement where user groups and government share the power and authority to manage a fisheries resource (Sen and Nielsen, 1996). Co-management is about the inclusive right to participate in making key decisions about how, when, where, how much, and by whom fishing will occur (Jentoft and McCay, 1995).

As part of the institutional agenda within the EAF, a key question remains as to what extent the co-management arrangement has progressed in the southern part of Lake Malawi which is a multi-species fishery. This article therefore seeks to assess the status of fisheries co-management as a governance reform in the study area as a baseline information to be used in the implementation of the EAF plan.

Methodology

This article largely applies an expert assessment by the author and reviews previous studies reports by various practitioners, researchers and scholars to assess the status of current fisheries co-management by applying FPIs framework (Anderson et al., 2014). Conceptually, when assessing then health of an ecosystem, FPIs use 68 individual outcome metrics that are coded on a 1 to 5 scale (Anderson et al., 2014). However, in this study only six FPIs were used based on expert assessments of the author to supplement application to the data poor fisheries of the southern Lake Malawi. The FPIs were developed in recognition of the fact that an effective management system is one that is ecologically sustainable, socially acceptable, and generates sustainable resource rents or profits (Anderson et al., 2014; World Bank, 2015).

FPIs are designed to assess the wealth generation success of management bodies and may include multiple species seeking to strike a balance between the scope of the management authority and the economic size of the evaluated fishery. Anderson et al. (2014) assert that in addition to the use of the FPIs framework as a tool for identifying fisheries that are poorly performing, it is also useful for formulation of sound policies and strategies. Van Zwieten et al. (2010) also recommend the need for a socio-economic assessment of Lake Malawi fisheries.

There are two types of FPIs for measuring wealth from a fishery that include outputs and inputs. The main components in the output component are sustainable fisheries; harvest sector performance; and post-harvest performance. On the other hand, the input FPIs focus on macro factors; and property rights and responsibility. However, in this article I delimit the FPIs to the co-management aspects, which are part of the input enabling wealth indicators. As Anderson et al. (2014) observe, the co-management component measures the role that local actors play in determining the management of the fisheries resources as some researchers and scholars recommend community participation to enhance enforcement capacity. The co-management component has six dimensions that include collective action, participation, leadership, social cohesion, community and gender (Anderson et al., 2014; World Bank Group, 2015).

Collective action dimension reflects the extent to which fishers act as a group to manage the fisheries resources and support recovery and sustainable practices where overfishing has occurred. The participation dimension measures the extent to which views of the stakeholders are taken into account in the management of the resources by looking at the amount of time and resources the stakeholders spend on the activity. Stakeholder participation is considered critical to achieve management outcomes that reflect the knowledge and management objectives of the stakeholders. Furthermore, Ostrom (1990) reported that leadership and social cohesion are key determinants of effective co-management. The gender dimension reflects the role that women have along the fish value chain including investment in fishing, processing and marketing. In this study assessment of the co-management ends at the scoring stage since not all dimensions within the input enabling wealth generation were considered.

Study area

Lake Malawi (Figure 1) lies in the southern central Africa between 9o 30′S and 14o 30′S in the western arm of the East African rift valley and is the southernmost of the African rift lakes (Menz, 1995; Smith, 2000). The lake is the third largest in Africa with an approximate length of 550 km, a mean width of 50–60 km and maximum recorded depth of 700 m. Its total surface area and volume are 28 000 km2 and 8400 km3, respectively giving an average depth of 292 m. The lake has a catchment area that covers around 130,000 km2 and includes much of Malawi, the north-western corner of Mozambique and the south-western corner of the Tanzania. The lake was formed millions of years ago as a part of the development of the Great Rift Valley system of Africa. It has more endemic fish species than any other lake in the world with at least 650–700 species of Cichlid fishes (Patterson and Kachinjika, 1995; Turner et al., 2001; Chafota et al., 2005).

Lake Malawi is of socio-economic significance to Malawi as the source of 60% of the total animal protein supply in the country with over 70% of Malawi's population depending on the lake and its catchment for their daily survival needs and livelihoods (Chafota et al., 2005). The Lake Malawi-Shire River water system is a strategic water resource for hydro-electric power generation, irrigated agriculture, navigation and fisheries for Malawi (Chidammodzi, 2016). Additionally, the lake has various interrelated sectors like fisheries (capture fisheries and aquaculture), tourism, agriculture, irrigation and mining, parks, mining, and forestry. Consequently, conflicts arise due to various policies.

Southern Lake Malawi which is located within Mangochi district supports a highly diverse capture fishery including large-scale commercial, small-scale commercial and subsistence (Banda et al., 2001). The large-scale commercial fishery is a mechanized fishery that operates trawls, purse seines or lift nets. The small-scale commercial fishery includes all fishers that use engines of less than 20 horsepower or no engine to catch fish intended primarily for sale. Fishing gears used in this sector include beach seines, open water seines, gill nets, fish traps, long lines and hand lines (Banda et al., 2001). The aquarium trade is another type of fishery that involves exploitation of some haplochromine Cichlids (Mbuna) for export. A sport fishery that usually targets Mpasa (Opsaridoum species), a Cyprinid exists on a casual basis along Bua River (Njaya, 2013, unpublished).

About 90% of the national annual fish production for the past five years (2010–2014) has been from Lake Malawi, of which 30% has been from the southern Lake Malawi (GoM, 2014). The annual production trend of the Chambo has, however, been declining especially from the late 1980s (Hara, 2007). Harvests of Chambo in the southern part of Lake Malawi show a decline from over 5000 tonnes per year in the late 1980s to less than 3000 tonnes per year since 2007. The reduced Chambo harvests has directly affected livelihoods of over 20,000 fishers, as well as over 200,000 fish processors, traders and boat builders along the value chain (de Graaf and Garibaldi, 2015; Njaya, 2016).

Management of the fishery involves community participation in a co-management arrangement which was introduced in the fishing area in the mid-1990s with formation of Beach Management Groups (BMGs) which later became Beach Village Committees (BVCs). Previous assessment of the co-management by Hara (2001) and Njaya (2007) showed the weak capacity of the BVCs and the unclear roles of partners within the fisheries co-management. To strengthen the fisheries co-management, fishing by-laws were formulated between 20005 and 2007 but have never been approved by the district council because there were no elected councilors from 2007 to 2014 when the second local government elections were held. However, a further review of the fishing by-laws is necessary considering of the lapse of time from 2007 to the present.

Results

The results are based on expert assessment of qualitative indicator levels which sometimes can be done without use of primary data (Anderson et al., 2014). The main attributes that guided the scoring exercise for the co-management included collective action (BVCs' influence on management and access), participation (days spent in meetings, industry financial support for management, and leadership), collective action (leadership and social cohesion), and gender (business management influence, resource management influence, labour participation in processing, and labour participation in marketing). The overall score was low (two out of five) as shown in Table 1. This means that there is more that can be done to improve the fisheries co-management arrangement.

Collective action dimension

Proportion of fishers in Beach Village Communities

The score for the number of fishers in Beach Village Communities (BVCs) was three out of five. This agrees with results of the EAF baseline study which showed that BVC membership in the southern Lake Malawi was composed of only 30% fishers (Njaya, 2013). Previous studies by Hara (1996) also found similar results. This implies that interests of the BVCs in the management of the fisheries resources in the southern Lake Malawi are limited. Furthermore, neither professional traders nor processors most of whom are women are BVC members.

Influence of Beach Village Communities on fisheries management

The score on BVCs' influence on fisheries management was two. This was the case because most of the BVCs and majority of the small-scale fishers indicated that they have been lobbying for change in closed season for all fishers including those operating trawlers (Njaya, 2013). Despite this not being legally declared yet, negotiations with the Department of Fisheries seem to be progressing well which means a revision of legislation may be considered.

Influence of Beach Village Communities on business and marketing

Influence of BVCs on business and marketing scored two because the BVCs do not have any powers to influence any changes on the fishing businesses. Fish marketing as any other form of business is liberalised and price setting follows the law of demand and supply. However, there was a request by the commercial fisheries on duty waiver which was granted. The duty waiver arrangement may to a certain extent affect fishing investment as more investors are interested in joining the fishery.

Participation dimension

Days spent in meetings

This attribute scored two because the BVCs' meetings are erratic. Some BVCs wait for fisheries technical staff to organise meetings while others just meet to address a specific issue like illegal operation of trawlers within shallow waters of the lake. Most of the BVCs meet once per month while some do it just four times a year. There is still a demand for financial inducements in form of allowances by the BVCs whenever they plan to meet as observed by Hara (1996).

Financial support

There is limited indirect financial support for management from the fishing industry in the management of the fisheries resources hence a score of only one. There is no proportion of the fishing gear license fees paid by the fishers that goes to Mangochi district council or BVCs for their operation, an issue that was raised in the formulation of the fishing by-laws (Njaya, 2007).

Community dimension

Leadership

Leadership scored two. BVC leadership is always in conflict with traditional leaders and sometimes with beach chairs appointed by the chiefs. The traditional leaders have powers of controlling the fishing beaches hence access to the beaches cannot regulated by majority of the BVCs (Njaya, 2007; Njaya et al., 2011).

Social cohesion

There was limited social cohesion within the BVCs was limited thereby registering a score of two. It was noted that existence of the BVCs has been mainly dependent on the approval of their chiefs. There have been changes in BVC membership as the chiefs assume total control of the beaches and fishing activities and not the BVCs (Hara et al., 2002; Njaya et al., 2011). In certain areas like Ng'ombe beach, some traditional leaders appoint BVC members of their choice which sometimes compromises enforcement of regulations, mainly the closed seasons, fishing areas and use of recommended fishing gears.

Gender dimension

Business management influence

A score on the influence of gender on business management was high (four). This is mainly with respect to participation of women and the youth in the post-harvest sector. While fishers (mostly men) are organised into resource user groups based on gear types like seines, on the other hand, women also have their recognised groups especially village banking schemes are common. The women make cash savings and get loans, which they normally use in fish processing and marketing or sometimes provide advance loans to the fishers to ensure access to the fish for sale (Njaya, 2013).

Gender influence on resource management

The score on gender influence was three because in most cases women fish processors and traders directly forces fishers to break closed season regulations. During closed season (1 November to 31 December) fishers reported that sometimes they are forced to go out fishing illegally to pay back loans they got from the fish processors and traders some of whom are women.

Gender aspects in fishing

Fishing is dominated by men hence the score was only one. However, in some areas of the Lake Malawi women are involved in the actual fishing operations mainly by using fish traps. In addition, few women own gears like seines that are operated by hiring men as recorded during the 2015 frame survey (GoM, 2015).

Labour participation in processing

Labour participation in processing scored high (four). Majority of the actors along the values chain especially the post-harvest sector are women who derive their livelihoods from fish processing and marketing fish. However, majority of the women have limited access to capital despite their good record on loan repayment as evidenced by the credit component study of the Lake Malawi Artisanal Fisheries Development Project (Njaya, 2008).

Discussion

Based on results from the analysis, there is more work needed to strengthen the fisheries co-management in the southern Lake Malawi during implementation of the EAF plan. Specific issues on collective action include influence of the BVCs on fisheries management, business and marketing. On the participation dimension, implementers of the EAF plan should focus on building capacity of the BVCs through training and identifying some sustainable financial support mechanisms like user fees for them to implement certain agreed activities with less dependence on other partners like the Department of Fisheries and some non-governmental organizations. The community dimension has some weaknesses on leadership of the BVCs. There is a need to ensure equal decision-making processes regarding fisheries management by the government and the representative committees (BVCs). The co-management arrangement should not be hijacked by certain influential members of the communities such as the traditional leaders in an elite capture situation (Béné and Neiland, 2006; Béné et al., 2009).

Though the results may need further validation, with reference to previous studies, there is some basis for their reliability. However, use of the FPIs on the social aspects of the fishery only while leaving out biological and economic issues is inadequate for assessment of the whole southern Lake Malawi fishery. Therefore, a gap exists in understanding the ecosystem health of the study area, hence further research needs to be done. In addition, consideration should be made for assessment of the whole Lake Malawi's ecosystem health considering fisher migrations which are common in many fishing areas of Malawi (Mvula, 2002; Njaya, 2009).

Nunan et al. (2015) and Hara et al. (2015) also indicated that fisheries governance on Lake Malawi was weaker than that of other Malawian water bodies like Lake Chiuta. The main reason given was that Lake Malawi is a large ‘open water system’ making it very difficult to create secure geographic communal rights. In this context, secure rights could probably work with consideration of a community controlled fishery based on a strong common property regime that would limit both participants and also the output. With a weak governance system, there are several challenges and threats that continue to impact on the ecosystem health of Lake Malawi. Overfishing in localised fishing areas is common mainly due to rampant use of under-sized-meshed nets, trawling in undesignated areas, degradation of the environment by clearing aquatic weeds in cottage developed shore areas; and the ‘open access’ nature of the fisheries leading to increased fishing effort in terms of gears and fishers (Chafota et al., 2005; Hara, 2007; Jamu et al., 2011; Donda et al., 2015).

Fisheries governance problems exist due to several reasons key of which are reported by Njaya (2007) and Njaya et al. (2011). First, the co-management arrangements are not embedded within a decentralized framework which results in power conflicts. Second, the roles of key actors like the Department of Fisheries, traditional leaders and Beach Village Committees remain unclear, hence conflicts usually emerge. Third, there is limited participation by non-state actors who could provide technical support especially in group dynamics. Fourth, there is lack of definition of resource boundaries especially as to which fishing zone inside the lake belongs to particular BVCs for easy control. Finally, there is limited understanding of the term ‘co-management’ among actors within the decentralized framework and hence only partial implementation of policies and strategies especially on the incentives for participation of the local fisheries management authorities.

Conclusions

This study has assessed the status of the fisheries co-management arrangement in the southern Lake Malawi. Based on the use of the FPIs, the overall assessment shows a weak co-management arrangement. This means that the social aspects of the fishery are inadequate to address the declining trend of Chambo. It is therefore necessary to consider some measures that would regulate entry into the fishery by introducing rights based fisheries as recommended by Hara and Njaya (2015). Furthermore, there is a need to formulate policy and legal frameworks especially by revisiting certain by-laws like banning seines, closed season for all operators, closed areas (sanctuaries), and enhance collaboration among sectors. The EAF approach with specific rights allocated to the small- and large-scale fishing communities is recommended (Nunan et al., 2015). The user groups (BVCs) should be empowered to enforce boundaries for the fishing zones allocated to the fishing groups (small- and large-scale operators) which Ostrom (1990) observed was one of the institutional design principles. This will ensure equal access to the fishery based on the resource status.

Finally, data collection and analysis on a regular basis is necessary to justify necessary action and formulate proper management measures. Use of the FPIs is recommended as a quick way of assessing the social dimension of any fishery mainly with reference to fisheries co-management. However, the use of the FPIs by delimiting fisheries co-management aspects has some implications on the understanding of the ecosystem health of the southern Lake Malawi. It is recommended that a full assessment of the whole fishery in terms of its ecosystem health be conducted as was done on Lake Chiuta (Njaya, 2013; World Bank, 2015).

Acknowledgements

Thanks should go to Dr Mohiuddin Munawar, Jennifer Lorimer and Lisa Elder of the Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society (AEHMS) for their support in organising the 8th GLOW Conference in Malawi from 24 to 26 March, 2015 and subsequent publication of this article.

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.

Note

Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/uaem.